Woodworking: Gone but not forgotten; the memory lives onA Journal reader named Art Dolan phoned the other day and had a message for all of us, said I should remind other Journal readers, too, so here goes.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
A Journal reader named Art Dolan phoned the other day and had a message for all of us, said I should remind other Journal readers, too, so here goes.
Art said “People keep telling us there’s an empty space behind the fence on the corner of Main and Walnut Streets. That’s just not so. That so-called ‘empty space’ is for many of us, full.”
How so, Art?
“Full,” he said, “of memories.”
Turns out that Art Dolan moved to River Falls in 1952 and began working at Lund’s Hardware Store.
We chatted about the folks who worked at Lund’s, the stuff that was sold there, like automobiles. I told Art that we have mementos of Lund’s in our old home on Walnut Street.
Seems that a fellow named Moline once lived there.
He was a blacksmith at Lund’s and when business was slow, he fashioned ornate brass hinges and installed them on all the beautiful doors in our living room and dining room.
Art’s call got me thinking about specific buildings of my childhood that meant a good deal to me. Some, like Lund’s are gone, leaving only memories.
That would be Whitehall’s City Hall, built in 1916.
When we were kids we smoked cigarettes in the men’s toilet there during noon hour and we worked as coat checkers when the annual fireman’s dance was held there.
It also housed a beautiful little library where we could read fancy magazines not available at the drug store.
A few years back, the lovely building fell down, a victim of municipal neglect. It’s now a vacant lot, and whenever I drive by, the memories flood in.
But the one building that stands out in my mind is still standing.
Proud as a peacock, it gleams, freshly painted and sand blasted, on the corner of Main and Scranton.
It takes up about one-quarter of the “Camp Block,” named after Dan Camp, the town’s first grocer and newspaper editor and Cargill dealer I’ve mentioned in past columns.
Dan Camp was long gone when I arrived in Whitehall in 1945 and his grocery store had become The Farmer’s Store, a small chain of department stores located in larger towns and small cities in Western Wisconsin.
I was nine years old and had spent most of my sensate years on a farm outside of Blair.
Blair had no such store, only a smattering of teeny groceries, like Gus Thomley’s with its potbellied stove, around which curmudgeons sat and spat.
The Farmer’s Store was another story. Its manager always came from some big town like Eau Claire or Chippewa Falls and always wore a suit and tie.
The building itself was brick, had big bay display windows, a woman’s mannequin (usually naked), two and a half stories, and double doors to enter off Main Street.
As you walked in the first thing you noticed was the freshly oiled wooden floors. To the left front corner was a place where you could buy harnesses, manure forks, .22 caliber longs and shorts, rifles, shotguns.
To its right were display cases full of notions, school supplies, little stuff.
To the far right was the clothing department, where you could buy overalls and wedding dresses and work and dress shoes and ready-made suits if you weren’t rich enough to go to Bill Lieberg’s down the street for a custom made three piecer.
Above it was a mezzanine, where closeout goods were offered. Above that was the second floor, a storehouse that still contained pointy-toed shoes and celluloid collars and fashions from half a century before.
At the back of the store was the grocery department, a long counter with shelving and clerks standing at attention behind it.
Go to Bill Olson, the town’s baseball umpire and he’d get you a sack of flour or a can of sauerkraut or a chunk of lutefisk out of a barrel from The Olsen Fish Co. of Minneapolis.
And in the middle was a pulpit-like structure, on which Miss Elsie Rasmussen sat at the cash register, surrounded by an octopus of wires and cables and little silver cans that rattled with change and invoices.
Buy a can of Van Camp’s Pork and Beans from Bill Olson. He’d take it off the shelf, write out a slip, take your money, put it in one of the silver cans and sail it off on the wire up to Miss Rasmussen.
She’d send the change back to Bill who gave it to you and said, “Don’t spend it all in one place” and you’d be on your way.
As you might expect it’s no longer a General Store. It’s where you can get fancy sandwiches and coffee from exotic places.